It’s been a year in the making, and the new, improved version of the Providence Day boys’ basketball team is ready now.
“I think we spent all of last season trying to figure it out,” coach Brian Field says.
“It’s 100 times better this year,” senior guard Isaac Suffren adds.
With improved chemistry, a bit more experience, and a few new players, the Chargers say they are ready to look like the Providence Day of two years ago – the team that won the the N.C. Independent Schools 3A state championship, played in the DICKS’ National Tournament in New York and finished with a top 20 national ranking.
Even casual followers of area high school basketball know of the Chargers’ elite senior backcourt. Devon Dotson, the 6-foot-2 point guard, has committed to Kansas for next season. Trey Wertz, a 6-5 shooting guard, will play at Santa Clara next year.
But it takes more than two of North Carolina’s top recruits to carry a team where Providence Day hopes to go this season.
Enter John Miralia, a 6-6 sophomore who has a baseball offer from Duke; 6-3 senior Isaac Suffren, who is fielding Division 1 college basketball offers; and 5-foot-10 senior Kyle Wood, a football standout who has committed to Washington & Lee. They are the rest of the starting lineup, and they say last season’s experimentation has ended.
“We had a brand new team last year,” Suffren says. “We went from being pretty big to being a smaller team.”
Wood adds, “We’ve figured out what works for us, offense and defense. We all worked hard in the summer on that.”
Not that last season was all that bad. The Chargers were 23-11 and reached the state playoff semifinals for the third straight season, before losing to High Point Wesleyan. Providence Day -- which beat two national top 25 teams on consecutive nights to win its second straight Hoodies House national Christmas tournament -- faced one of the toughest schedules in the nation, according to national statistics website MaxPreps. But it wasn’t the championship effort of two years ago that netted a 30-4 record.
“Early last season, we had no core players, no go-to moves,” Suffren says.
“But even with all that, we ended up being a Final 4 team,” Field notes. “That says something.”
This year, Field said, the Chargers have created an offense that plays to each member’s strengths. So far, the players are enjoying the freedom.
“It creates really good spacing, and we have a lot of players who work well in that offense,” says Miralia, a standout pitcher who has offers from Duke and several other ACC schools.
Chargers players acknowledge one thing: They’re shorter than several of the teams they’ll face this season. There’s no getting around that.
But on a recent afternoon, sitting in Field’s office, Miralia, Suffren and Wood talked and laughed about their competitions with taller opposition last season. Wood, for example, recalled guarding a player 6 inches taller from Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha in the Hoodies’ holiday tournament.
“There might be teams with bigger or better-skilled players, but we’ll always be ready to compete,” Suffren says. “That’s who we are at Providence Day.”
Wood adds, “With the tradition at Providence Day, there’s a sense of pride. We give it our all, and we know the pieces will fall in place.”
The Chargers will be heavily tested early in the season, with games this weekend against Fayetteville Northwood Academy and Raleigh Word of God in the Phenom Hoops National Showcase in Greensboro. In early December, they travel to Beijing for a tournament in China.
Along the way, the Chargers know they’ll get everyone’s best shot. They say they’re ready, and they add that the presence of big-name players like Dotson and Wertz is not a distraction.
“Devon and Trey are friends, teammates,” Wood says. “We’re all close.”
Miralia adds, “I think what you’ll see this season is a team that works together like a unit. I think we’ve figured it out.”
Steve Lyttle on Twitter: @slyttle